Central Roller Club
History of the Rollers reprinted from the 1967 roller digest.
ROLLER ANCIENT HISTORY
by Bob Evans
The earliest record published in regard to the Performing Tumbler was in Moore's Columbarium, published in 1735, 211 years ago, in London, England. This same work was revised and printed by Eton in 1858, and the progress made in the breeding of performing pigeons can be followed by checking what Tegetmeier and Ludlow, whom Mr. Pensom quote quite often, had to say on the subject, as well as Fulton and others. The records show that some time near 1755 the breeders around Birmingham, England and the so-called Back Country were specializing in breeding birds for quality performance in the air, rather than for show purposes as had been done in the past.
A book published by a Mr. G. Smith in 1883, stated that the "Performing Tumblers were about the oldest breed of pigeons in England," and at this time Mr. Smith said he had been familiar with the breed for more than forty years, At the time this book was published no doubt such breeders as Bellfield were breeding a Flying Tumbler that would compare favorably with our present day Roller, and Bellfield improved the quality of performance during his lifetime. Mr. Pensom has reported that he obtained the entire loft of birds upon the death of his friend Bellfield, so this brings the record up to present date for the Roller Breeders of today, as Mr. Pensom has related his experience with these birds during his lifetime and many are familiar with all that he has written on the subject.
There is one question in regard to the Rollers of today on which all fanciers do not agree and that is as to whether the Oriental Roller was imported from Persia and crossed with this English bird that was reported to be one of the oldest breeds in that country, or whether a so-called Dutch Tumbler was used as a cross in developing the bird as it is today. The Oriental Roller is a wire-legged bird that has from thirteen to twenty-odd feathers in the tail and does not have an oil-sac, The Dutch Tumbler was a bird with the normal twelve tail feathers and was either grouse muffed or heavily muffed on legs and feet; therefore many believe that the Oriental Roller has been used as a cross for experimental purposes by a great many breeders of the past, but that it does not have any connection with the present day birds. The Oriental Roller naturally had a large tail and carried it higher than the wingtips, giving the bird a sway-backed station, and it was also a very poor kit flying bird, disposed to fly and perform alone in the air. The present-day Roller has a ready-to make-off stance, tail down with straight back line, and a narrow or "one-feather tail'' which is considered the necessary type for quality spinners. The bird is a natural it flyer (and grouse muffed birds are common), all of which tends to prove that if be Oriental bird was ever used as a cross, all the characteristics of that breed have been purposely eliminated as detrimental, although the spinning qualities of all these different breeds were similar to a certain extent.
It makes little difference now as to what crosses made up the Roller of today or whether the Tippler came from the Roller or the Tippler Pigeon was part of the Roller Pigeon, but this book would not be complete without some of the above history being set down as a record, as many of the old writings have been out of print so long that it is almost impossible to obtain copies.
We can at present truthfully say that our favorite pigeon has been in the process of development for well over 200 years and as for the Oriental Roller, it has been reported that they were flown by the Egyptian Kings for sport, so we of today have a hobby as old as the next one, of that we can be sure.